Category Archives: Education

Educating, Empowering, Conserving!

It is all too often said that education is fundamental to mobilise change. In our case, it is the building blocks for long-term support of wildlife conservation, and sustainable use of natural resources by local communities.

Local Teachers, Local Heroes

With 89 schools to support around Savé Valley Conservancy, Victor typically only reaches each school once per term, or three times per year. Thus, we ultimately rely on our local teachers to implement our conservation resources and education materials on a day-to-day basis. As such, we recently had a Teachers Feedback Workshop where we evaluated our existing resources with a gathering of local teachers, and discussed what type of resources they would find most useful in the future.

This was a wonderful day where educators came together and shared ideas on how to implement resources into their classes and motivate the children’s interest in wildlife. Ultimately, we want our resources to be user-friendly, compatible with the existing syllabus, helpful and USED by the teachers!


Teachers enjoying themselves at the workshop.


Attachment student, Golden Mukaro, discusses our carnivore posters with the teachers.


Rosemary Groom chairs a collective feedback session at the end of the workshop.


Thank you to the Chiredzi District Education Officer for attending the workshop!


Dressed for Success

Have a look at our revamped vehicle for our Gonarezhou Predator Project education team. Taking wildlife to the people! Not only is the vehicle fun and exciting for the children, but it depicts much of the local wildlife from Gonarezhou National Park, including the iconic Chilojo Cliffs. Ezekia and Anesu, our community education officers for the project, are definitely going to draw the crowds in as they move through the communities, and as such, have plenty of opportunity to educate, empower, and encourage the local people to help conserve!


Ezekia and Anesu, our proud and excited community education officers.

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pangolin, school children, zebra and more…

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An African Fish Eagle soars across the bonnet.

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Of course there are some African wild dogs camped out on the door!


 A Picture says a Thousand Words

It is currently school holidays so Victor has spent the last two weeks busy with our Mobile Education Library in the communities. This is an opportunity for all, young and old, to learn about wild dogs, watch wildlife documentaries and read books and magazines that cover a spectrum of environmental and conservation issues.


Victor addresses a local community about African wild dog conservation.


Why are wild dogs decreasing?


These gatherings are a great opportunity for local people to discuss problems they may be having living alongside wildlife, or local farming problems, and to be provided with sound and practical solutions.


A young man eyes one of our carnivore posters.


Learning about water conservation.


A group of gentlemen discuss the material they have come across.


Three young girls thoroughly enjoying their morning at the AWCF Mobile Education Library!


The DVD’s are a very popular activity and the people will cram themselves into the smallest places to get a brief glimpse of the documentary.


Three older men gather under the shade of a tree to learn more about wildlife conservation.


There is still plenty more to come this year, including another Happy Readers Workshop to provide literacy books to another 10 schools, our leadership and conservation training field trip for our secondary scholars, and cluster competitions between the schools where they will battle it out to show who has the most extensive knowledge of African wild dogs and predator conservation!

“An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.” – Benjamin Franklin

For many, the beginning of a new year marks an end to holidays and return to the realities of life – work, and for our luckier younger generationals – school!

Not many of our supporters know that the AWCF also funds and provides the school fees & uniforms for some less fortunate bright young things.  We presently have 14 scholars in our program at the moment , whom we  affectionately term “Predator Scholars” – maintaining the link between the benefit of education and the preservation of wildlife for all future generations. Under our program, we pay their full school fees for the duration of their secondary school careers, provide them with uniforms, stationary, books, guidance, etc.  As a brand new benefit in 2014, we will also be supplying them with solar-powered lights to enable evening study, while also paying their O-level and A-level exam fees.

If any of our supporters would like to help out one of the students, let us know.  We ask for a commitment of $350 per year.  For your investment, you get regular news from the student on how they’re getting along, sent photos, letters (sometimes birthday cards!)  etc.

As Ben said all those years ago, there truly is no better or more rewarding way to spend money than on educating the future (while supporting conservation at the same time!).

Charles Dare loves the big cats!

Charles Dare loves the big cats!



Vimbai loves books and in the library is where she sees her dreams come true.

Vimbai loves books and in the library is where she sees her dreams come true.

Edline is a promising wildlife vet!

Edline is a promising wildlife vet!

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Hi Folk,

I’ll keep this blog up to date as much as I can, but for short regular updates and load of great pictures and stories, please visit and ‘like’ our facebook page:



Happy Readers Literacy Workshop

Hi folks,

As you’ll have seen from the last post, there is an urgent need to improve the literacy levels in rural primary schools in Zimbabwe.  The fact is that most children can barely read by the time they leave primary school (12/13 years old).  What chance will these children have in life??

It’s not their fault – it’s not that they are stupid or don’t pay attention in lessons.  It’s not always the case that the teachers don’t care or don’t know how to teach.  It’s because they have nothing to learn with.  How can you learn to read a book without a book??  And even if you have a book, if you haven’t been taught to read through a proper literacy training program, you cant just pick it up and read it.

Teaching someone to read is no easy job.  And it’s impossible without the right resources.

We have therefore teamed up with Happy Readers to try and do something about this.  We recently provided sets of the nine Level 1 Literacy Books to eight more schools around Save Valley Conservancy and Gonarezhou.

And we then held a workshop to train the teachers in how to use the resource, and why it works.  We had a great representation from the 12 schools that now have the books, and were also honored by the presence of the District Education Officer from Chipinge District and representatives from the Chiredzi and Buhera DEO offices.



Conor O’Beirne from Happy Readers came down to do the workshop:


The teachers listened attentively and by all accounts were thrilled with the concept of the scheme



A game towards the end got everyone involved and showed what fun learning to read can be, when it’s done right:


Finally, it was time for the presentation of the books:

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Malilangwe Trust also bought the books for two of their schools, so in total we were able to hand out books for 10 more schools!  Literacy tests have been conducted in the schools, and we look forward to seeing the progress next year.

Back soon,




AWCF’s Literacy Training Program Continues

African Wildlife Conservation Fund has teamed up with Happy Readers to try and get literacy books into the rural schools surrounding Save Valley Conservancy and Gonarezhou National Park as part of our education and outreach program.

From initial literacy testing, it was clear that there was a serious need for this:  even students towards the end of their primary school career were unable to read at all.  And we are told by secondary schools teachers that they are also struggling with very high levels of complete illiteracy in their schools.

Just for a minute try and imagine your life if you couldn’t read… Imagine all those opportunities that you would not have had or been able to take advantage of.  Imagine what a struggle it would be to do anything with your life.  Imagine how you would have no alternative than to believe everything you are told, and no alternative than to depend on the natural resources around you for survival.

If you cannot read, you cannot learn, and if you cannot learn, you cannot change your life…

It’s a tragedy that Zimbabwe, which once had one of the highest literacy levels in Africa and one of the best education systems in the world, has now collapsed to such an extent that we see such shocking figures:

screen shot of test results

Thanks to funding from the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund we were recently able to purchase Happy Reader level 1 books for eight more of the primary schools around the key wildlife areas.  Together with the two schools we did last year, and two schools that Malilangwe Trust has sponsored, the books are now in twelve schools in the area.  Since we work with 123 primary schools, we still have a way to go, but we’ve made a start and will have changed the lives of those students, without a doubt.

Last week, with the support of the District Education Officers of the four districts involved in the program at this stage, we held a training workshop for the teachers to use the scheme.  I’ll post more about that workshop in the next post.


The Happy Reader Books use use animals as characters and help the children to relate to wild animals as individuals and friends rather than simply a food source.  As the levels progress, they bring in basic conservation messages.  We believe that this program (aimed at Grades 1 & 2s primarily) will complement our environmental education programs in the higher grades, thus helping us achieve our conservation goals as well.

The scheme has been shown to be successful in many of the areas where it has been implemented, and is so popular with teachers that virtually every single private primary school in Zimbabwe has bought the books.  We just hope that we can help those poor rural schools to get the same opportunities.

If anyone can help – please click on DONATE on the right hand side of this page.  Your money will go straight to the African Wildlife Conservation Fund via a safe and secure method (PayPal) and you can specify that you want it to be used for literacy books.

There are very few better ways to make a real difference to people’s lives.

Thank you!


AWCF scholarhsip students set for the year

Hi folks,

While I’ve been away, our community liaison officer, Victor, has been out and about visiting all our secondary school scholars to ensure that the schools have received the fees we paid, and to check up on how they are doing.

For last years scholars, the idea was to ensure that they are still happy and doing well and to ensure their fees and uniforms etc were all in order.  Our attachment student Nobesuthu went along as well, and between her and Victor they gave the students fantastic motivation for working hard and getting good grades throughout their school career.


Our new scholars were met for the first time and were given their predator scholarship certificates, which they were very proud of.  All seemed to be happy in their new schools and enthusiastic about the year ahead.


For some students, all the teachers turned out to witness the certificate being handed over, and for others, the big smile said it all!



We look forward to seeing how they do this year and to engaging them with some of AWCF’s activities, to include them in the team.  All of these students are from extremely poor families, and would not have been able to continue to secondary school without our support.  It’s very emotional to think that these bright students would be back in the villages and most probably married off in the next year or two, had they not been given this opportunity.


So thank you very much to all of you who have supported our project through this blog, or in other ways, and who have enabled this support to be given.  If anyone would like to help with the continued support of these students, please get in touch through a comment on the blog.  Donations can be made by clicking on this link.

Back soon,


Nobesuthu Ngwenga joins the AWCF team

Hi Folks,

The title of this blog should really read “Nobesuthu Ngwenya joined the AWCF team”, as she has in fact been with us for a few months already (where has time gone?!).  But it struck me, as I was posting some photos of her recently, that I have never properly ‘introduced’ her to you all.

Nobesuthu is a third year undergraduate student at the National University of Science and Technology in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, where she is doing her BSc in Forestry Resources and Wildlife Management.

Nobesuthu joined the AWCF team in September, for her attachment year, in partnership with Chishakwe Ranch.  She’s been a great addition to the team; she is a quick learner and keen to get involved in all the different aspects of our multi-disciplinary conservation project.

Here she is sorting books;

Helping out with the mobile education unit:

Helping with an emergency de-snaring of an African wild dog:

And helping out on a recent school bush camp:

Nobesuthu seems to be enjoying the experience and gaining a lot from it.  In her own words, “Being part of the wild dog project has been the greatest thing that l have ever experienced. It has been a big turn round to my whole life on my character and attitude towards the beautiful things life brings us, our wildlife. I have learnt a lot about wild dog tracking, darting, collaring, comunity education, and all about conservation of wildlife, its an endless list. Working with Rosemary, the scouts and everyone in the project has been really overwhelming, they just know their stuff, I wouldn’t miss out on a chance with them to explore, learn and take up the challenge“.

It’s a great opportunity for us to be able to help guide and train a promising young Zimbabwean conservationist.  Let’s hope this is the start of a long and productive career in wildlife conservation for Nobesuthu.

AWCF Education Project – Kids enjoy access to wildlife books

Hi folks,

Thanks to generous support from the Rufford Foundation, we have managed to establish a mobile education unit for communities around the Save Valley Conservancy.  We are still working out exactly how the logistics will work best, but in the meantime we’ve been having some great times with kids and adults from in and around the conservancy.

We’ve got hundreds of books and magazines now, all with an animals, wildlife or conservation theme, and which are suitable for all ages and reading abilities.  Our attachment student, Nobesuthu Ngwenya, has been labelling and cataloguing all the resources and covering the books with protective plastic where necessary.

We then take these, along with conservation and environmental-themed DVDs into communities, and allow people to use them as they would a library.  One of the AWCF team is always there to assist and to engage with the younger children.

Sometimes though, the greatest value is just in giving them time with the books.

Even the youngest seem to get the idea eventually!

We’ve got so much more going on with our education program and it’s really exciting.  I’m just struggling to find time to post blogs about it all!  But it’s all going on all the time, and I’ve no doubt our efforts are making a difference.  Thanks to all those who have supported us.  And thanks to Chishakwe Ranch for being the centre of it all and providing the team with a base.

Back soon,


Local communities celebrate wildlife

For the second year running, the African Wildlife Conservation Fund was invited as guests of honor to the Grade Seven Graduation Day held by a cluster of schools on the Save Valley Conservancy’s western boundary.  These schools; Chedutu, Checheni, Ziki and Chinyika, are all part of our conservation education program and Chedutu, Checheni and Chinyika are all AWCF predator-scholarship winning schools as well.

The day was a great success, with good attendance.

One of the main aims was to encourage primary school leavers to continue to secondary school, and to encourage the parents, who also attended, that this was something worth paying for.  Wildlife was the theme of the day, and AWCF community liaison officer Victor Chibaya spoke about the value of wildlife and the importance of conserving it.  Victor, and our attachment student Nobesuthu Ngwenya also got an opportunity to meet two of our scholarship students, who had attended the participating primary schools.

We look forward to working with these schools more.


Five Harare Schools visit Chishakwe on a Field Trip (2)

Herewith the second installment of the childrens education camp in the Save Valley Conservancy at Chishakwe Ranch.  After returning from the bush walk, and having a delicious breakfast, Mr Bryce Clements gave the students a riveting and interactive talk on rhinos and rhino anti poaching.  Along with many interesting facts and figures about rhinos, the students were given an insight into the life of an anti-poaching ranger, complete with a demo of a contact with poachers!

Lunchtime was next, interrupted only by the finding of a (harmless) spotted bush snake which caused a great furore and a good deal of interest once it was safely in-hand.

After lunch, our AWCF attachment student, Nobesuthu Ngwenya led a discussion on the importance of wildlife in African culture, including hearing about people’s different totems.  It was a fantastic session, with a lot of enthusiasm and interest:

Next, we held an interactive session about the five large carnivores, demonstrating the differences in their skulls with real skulls and discussing their strengthes relative to humans.  We had kids trying to climb up a few steps carrying another kid of their own body weight (as leopards do up trees), and kids racing against the clock to see if they could beat the cheetah maximum running speed…

Sadly they didnt make it (!) but it emphasized quite how amazing these animals are, relative to us meagre humans.

We then used various sized groups of students to illustrate how much easier it is to catch impala when working as a pack (of wild dogs).  Unfortunately someone then had the bright idea that I should be the impala and the WHOLE group of students should be the wild dogs…..

Suffice to say I was caught and “disembowelled” fairly promptly :)!

We then went on a game drive in different groups.  All four vehicles managed to see wild dogs, which was fantastic, and we also saw lots of giraffe, impala, kudu, wildebeest, baboons, warthogs and even elephants and a hyena.  The students – most of whom had never been to the bush – were stunned and wonderfully excited by everything!

I could go on, but suffice to say an amazing few days was had by all, and we hope it installed a love and respect of the bush and it’s wildlife into many of the students who attended.  Thank you again to Chishakwe Ranch for providing all the accomodation, and for help in so many other ways.

I don’t normally do this, but please, if anyone is able to help us fund trips like this, it would be a massive help.  Everyone involved volunteered their time, but the transport costs, food and supplies all add up, and if anyone thinks they could help support us to cover the costs of this trip, and others in future, please visit or click on the Donate button on this page.  Think how much difference you can help us make to Zimbabwean students!  Thank you.